WIND CONCERNS ONTARIO PRESENTATION TO THE ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEW TRIBUNAL
WIND CONCERNS ONTARIO
PRESENTATION TO THE ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEW TRIBUNAL
Date: March 18, 2013
Reference: ERT Case Nos. 13-002/13-003
We wish to thank the Tribunal for the opportunity to present our views on the issuing of the REA Number 7681-8UAKR7 to Ostrander Point GP Inc. as a general partner for and on behalf of Ostrander Point Wind Energy LP.
As noted in our submissions, we have focused our support on the appeal launched by the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists (PECFN) and in particular on the potential harm to various species of bats as described in the “Ostrander Point Wind Energy Park Acoustic Bat Monitoring Report.”
We note the aforementioned report identified eight (8) species of bats regularly known to occur in Ontario, all of which have a range that overlaps the “Study Area.”
Seven of these species were also identified in a “review” completed by scientists Kunz, Arnett, Erickson et al and published by the Ecological Society of America.1 The review is titled “Ecological impacts of wind energy development on bats, questions, research needs, and hypotheses” and raises concerns about the large number of bat fatalities at industrial wind facilities and made this poignant observation:
The unexpectedly large number of migratory tree bats being killed by wind turbines and the projected cumulative fatalities in the Mid-Atlantic Highlands should be a wake-up call for those who promote wind energy as being “green” or environmentally friendly.
The review of 14 pages includes several graphs containing data associated with the bat fatalities as gathered by leading experts throughout the US, and notes several hypotheses that may be the ultimate cause of those fatalities. I quote from the document:
Some migratory species are known to seek the nearest available trees as daylight approaches (Cryan and Brown in press), and thus could mistake large monopoles for roost trees (Ahlén 2003; Hensen 2004). Tree-roosting bats, in particular, often seek refuge in tall trees (Pierson 1998; Kunz and Lumsden 2003; Barclay and Kurta 2007). As wind turbines continue to increase in height, bats that migrate or forage at higher altitudes may be at increased risk (Barclay et al. 2007).
Are bats attracted to sites that provide rich foraging habitats? Modifications of landscapes during installation of wind energy facilities, including the construction of roads and power-line corridors, and removal of trees to create clearings (usually 0.5–2.0 ha) around each turbine site may create favorable conditions for the aerial insects upon which most insectivorous bats feed (Grindal and Brigham 1998; Hensen 2004). Thus, bats that migrate, commute, or forage along linear landscapes (Limpens and Kapteyn 1991; Verboom and Spoelstra 1999; Hensen 2004; Menzel et al. 2005) may be at increased risk of encountering and being killed by wind turbines.
Are bats attracted to the sounds produced by wind turbines? Some bat species are known to orient toward distant audible sounds (Buchler and Childs 1981), so it is possible that they are attracted to the swishing sounds produced by the rotating blades. Alternatively, bats may become acoustically disoriented upon encountering these structures during migration or feeding.
Bats may also be attracted to the ultrasonic noise produced by turbines (Schmidt and Jermann 1986). Observations using thermal infrared imaging of flight activity of bats at wind energy facilities suggest that they do fly (and feed) in close proximity to wind turbines (Ahlén 2003; Horn et al. 2007; Figure 3).
Wind turbines are also known to produce complex electromagnetic fields in the vicinity of nacelles. Given that some bats have receptors that are sensitive to magnetic fields (Buchler and Wasilewski 1985; Holland et al. 2006), interference with perception in these receptors may increase the risk of being killed by rotating turbine blades.
Bats flying in the vicinity of turbines may also become trapped in blade-tip vortices (Figure 4) and experience rapid decompression due to changes in atmospheric pressure as the turbine blades rotate downward. Some bats killed at wind turbines have shown no sign of external injury, but evidence of internal tissue damage is consistent with decompression (Dürr and Bach 2004; Hensen 2004).
Interestingly, the highest bat fatalities occur on nights when wind speed is low (< 6 m s–1), which is when aerial insects are most active (Ahlén 2003; Fiedler 2004; Hensen 2004; Arnett 2005).
The latter text leads us to the “Reply Witness Statement of Erin Cotnam,” dated March 1, 2013 delivered to the appellants PECFN and APPEC and participant Wind Concerns Ontario by Ms. Davis, counsel for the Ministry of the Environment on the first day of the commencement of the ERT hearing, and to the “Acoustic Bat Monitoring Report” prepared by Stantec for Gilead Power Corporation of Peterborough, Ontario.
The Reply Witness Statement of Erin Cotnam responded to the WCO written presentation among others; we will focus only on the comments related to WCO which were contained in Cotnam’s points 2 through 6. Erin Cotnam responded as follows: Point 2 referred to WCO’s question about conflicting information on the equipment identified in the Renewable Energy Application, specifically that both Enercon and GE turbines are specified, though the equipment types are not the same.
In Point 3, Ms. Cotnam says: “The acoustic monitoring of bats completed by Stantec was not a necessary component of the Natural Heritage Assessment. It was completed under the earlier environmental assessment process.”
Point 4 of Ms. Cotnam’s “Statement” continues: “Under the Natural Heritage Assessment, significant wildlife habitat is not assessed or determined on specifications for wind power generating equipment.”
On the latter point Ms. Cotnam is correct, as a review of the “Natural Heritage Assessment Guide” indicates that equipment means nothing in respect to the need to explain, as an example, the different kill rates of birds and bats from a 50-kW wind turbine with a 19.2-meter (63 feet) rotor diameter versus a GE xl 2.5MW wind turbine with a 103-meter (337 feet) rotor diameter.
What the MNR “guidelines” effectively do, then, is suggest that a blade sweep that covers approximately 4,500 square feet will harm/kill/harass the same number of birds and bats as a blade sweep that covers more than 126,000 square feet.
We question this assertion and the logic behind it.
Returning to the remaining text of Ms. Cotnam’s “Witness Statement” we note that point 4 continues with the following:
An applicant is required to complete a site investigation within 120M of project location, including wind turbines. A site investigation was completed for the Site, which involved an Ecological Land Classification assessment to determine if the Site would support bat habitat and a search for potential roost trees and hibernacula. No candidate bat habitat (maternity roosts or hibernacula) were identified. Therefore an Evaluation of Significance was not required.
Once again Cotnam’s statement is correct as she refers to the 25-page MNR document dated July 2011, “Bats and Bat Habitats: Guidelines for Wind Power Projects” with reference to page 6, Section 2.2. The presumed assumption by the authors of this “Guideline” is that 120 meters (393 feet) is more than sufficient to locate a bat roost; this is based on the questionable assumption that bats will not fly further from the roost to feed than 120 meters.
However, the fact is that even the little brown bat (one of the eight species identified in the aforementioned Ostrander Point Wind Energy Acoustic Bat Monitoring Report) may travel several kilometers between day roosts and feeding sites, as noted by the University of Michigan, among others.
Further, the MNR guidelines also fail to recognize that three (3) of the bat species (hoary bat, silver-haired bat, and red bat) identified in the monitoring report prepared by Stantec, migrate in the Spring and Fall, and as noted above in the material quoted from the Ecological Society of America, will seek “large monopoles” as roosts as daylight approaches. In fact, migrating bats are known to travel distances as great as 500 km,2so to imagine they wouldn’t travel more than 120 meters to find food is not realistic.
We also note that the Stantec-prepared monitoring report does not include any monitoring during the “spring” migration period as it relates to bats. The MNR Guidelines document states that, “In Ontario, the post-construction monitoring season for bats is based on bat activity patterns, covering spring activity through fall swarming and migration, and is consistent with the post-construction monitoring season for birds; thus monitoring occurs from May 1 to October 31.”
The Ministry of Natural Resources’ own fact sheet on bats in Ontario notes that bats hibernate from September to April, thus May is a critical month for monitoring bat activity.3
Indeed, the first draft report on bat monitoring in the subject area prepared by Stantec in 20094 says that, “Based on a site sensitivity rating of Level 3 (High), a pre-construction monitoring program was designed that consisted of: Radar monitoring in May, August, September and October; and, Acoustic surveys at three stations within the Study Area in July, August and September.”
However, in the final draft report released in January 2010, Stantec states, “Based on a site sensitivity rating of Level 3 (High), a pre-construction monitoring program was designed and approved by the MNR that consisted of acoustic monitoring at four stations within the Study Area in July, August and September.” In other words, in the final draft report on bat activity, the month of May was omitted.
WCO also notes that under circumstances where a “local conservation authority” exists the process for the issuance of an REA requires the input of that “local conservation authority” when it involves “wetlands” or alteration in and in the case of Prince Edward County the local authority is the Quinte Conservation Authority. The MNR guidelines describe the local input requirement as follows:
“1.4.1 Conservation Authority Permissions
Renewable energy projects may require permission from the local conservation authority (where one exists). Through conservation authorities’ Development, Interference and Alteration Regulations, under Section 28 of the Conservation Authorities Act, conservation authorities are empowered to regulate development and activities in or adjacent to wetlands, river or stream valleys, watercourses, Great Lakes and large inland lakes shorelines and hazardous lands.”
WCO’s contact with the Quite Region Conservation Authority confirmed that they were contacted in 2008 by “Gilead” and responded that as Ostrander Point was “crown land” and protected; Gilead would need to confer with the Provincial authorities. The spokesperson for the Authority advised us that the Province has not sought input nor consulted with the local Quinte Region Conservation Authority nor has it been contacted as a courtesy by the Ministry of Natural Resources or the Environment Ministry to offer their views on the issuance of the REA.
Related to the foregoing the Stantec “Bat Monitoring Report” prepared for Gilead contained the following;
“Permanent wetlands, in the form of deciduous swamp and open marsh, occur along the southeastern boundary of the Study Area.”
and the Natural Heritage Assessment Guide for Renewable Energy Projects has this embedded in its 100 pages:
“2.0 NATURAL FEATURES AND PROHIBITIONS ON DEVELOPMENT
Development prohibitions are outlined in Part V, Sections 37, 38, 41, 42, and 43 of the REA Regulation4
Tables 2, 3, and 4 detail natural features protected under the REA Regulation and their specific
development prohibitions, as well as the development prohibitions which apply to provincial parks and conservation reserves. When two or more natural features overlap, the greater development prohibition applies.
Applicants may seek an exception from the prohibitions, in order to develop within significant or
provincially significant natural features (with the exception of provincially significant southern wetlands and provincially significant coastal wetlands) and within their setbacks, provided an EIS is prepared in accordance with procedures established by MNR (Section 7).”
It would appear that despite the fact that the MNR has very strictguidelines that apply to wetlands; in the case of the REA issued to Gilead/Ostrander those guidelines (in respect to “Crown” lands), their importance is ignored or waived despite objections by interested parties.
Also included in the Natural Heritage Assessment Guidelines was the following:
“5.7 Areas of Natural and Scientific Interest
Under the REA Regulation, Areas of Natural and Scientific Interest (ANSIs) are defined as areas which have values related to protection, scientific study or education. ANSIs are areas of land and water containing natural landscapes or features identified by MNR as life science and/or earth science sites (or both) depending on natural heritage values.”
As noted in the Environmental Registry; “Ostrander Point has also been designated a Candidate Area of Natural and Scientific Interest by the Ministry of Natural Resources.”
The granting of the REA by the MNR is in contravention of Section 38 of the Environmental Protection Act in respect to the two issues highlighted immediately above and should be immediately rescinded.
To summarize, we believe that the fact that the Ministry of Natural Resources “Guidelines” document fails to differentiate between the size of structures and the distance from the project location where bat roosts are concerned, is a problem. To ignore the characteristics of the structures proposed is the same as suggesting that the number of birds that will collide with a 50-storey building is the same as the number that would collide with a five-storey building.
The results of the bat monitoring for Ostrander Point also assume that bats in search of food will not travel beyond 120 meters of their roosting site.
We submit this is not logical.
We are also concerned with the discrepancy in the timing of the bat monitoring studies, which was done with the approval of the MNR but which seems contradictory to the MNR’s own information on bat activity.
The omissions and assumptions in the guidelines make it appear as if the Ministry’s guidelines as applied to wind power generation facilities are not meant to protect bats and birds but instead were written to ensure that a Renewable Energy Approval would be issued by the Ministry, and not be challenged on these issues.
We would like to emphasize again the critical importance of bats to the natural environment as a natural means to control insect populations.
We hope that the Tribunal will consider these facts and recognize that to the people of Ontario, the Green Energy and Green Economy Act was not intended to desecrate the natural environment including wildlife. The Ministry’s own policy on the development of Crown lands for onshore wind power states that development must be done in a way that “contributes to the environmental, social and economic well being of the Province.”5
We believe that we have shown several omissions that could indicate the Ministry of Natural Resources “Guidelines” are insufficient to support the intent of the Green Energy Act, and the Ministry’s own policies on the appropriate use of Crown land, particularly in the case of Ostrander Point.
“equipment” and structures associated with wind power generation projects should be considered as a factor in the killing/harming and harassment of nature regardless of the presence or absence of information to this effect in the Guidelines; and,
that reasonable care relating to normal and proven bat and bird movements and activities must be taken to ensure that Crown land is being properly used in a way that conserves the natural environment, as is the intent of relevant legislation, as is expected by the citizens of Ontario.
Additionally, the Renewable Energy Approval granted by the MNR to Ostrander Point GP Inc. is in direct contravention of Section 38 of the Environmental Protection Act.
Wind Concerns Ontario recommends again that the Tribunal reverse this MNR Renewable Energy Approval, for the reasons we have stated today, and in our earlier submission.
Parker Gallant, Vice-President
Wind Concerns Ontario
WIND CONCERNS ONTARIO
PO BOX 11059
105 GUILDWOOD PARKWAY
SCARBOROUGH ON M1E 1N0
1 Kunz TH, Arnett EB, Erickson WP et al. Front Ecol Environ 2007; 5(6); 315-324. Published by the Ecological Society of America.
2 McGuire, 2012, page 4. Available at: http://ir.lib.uwo.ca/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1605&context=etd
3 Ministry of Natural Resources, 2008. Bat Hibernation and Hibernacula. Available at: http://www.mnr.gov.on.ca/stdprodconsume/groups/lr/@mnr/@fw/documents/document/269068.pdf
5 Ministry of Natural Resources, 2010. Policy PL4.10.04, Section 2.3